Friday, June 10, 2011

It's Been Too Long...

My life is very busy, and I have not paid enough attention to this (or my other) blogs over the past few months. It is my hope that I can write at least once a week going forward on each. I love to write, it is almost therapy for me. I wish I had more time.

But it is the reasons that I don't have time that I love. I love my family more than anything in the world, and I love my job. My job is very demanding and takes up a lot of time, and my family - well - about the same.

We are the proud parents of four beautiful children. Two boys, and two girls over the past 10 years have come into our lives, and have blessed us greatly.

Chandler, our oldest was the first to be diagnosed on the autism spectrum. As he began to crawl, then walk, we failed to notice the tell all signs of Autism. It wasn't until his little sister joined us that we realized that there could be something different about our son.

Chandler was diagnosed just before his fourth birthday, and the time since (six years) have brought us many blessings and many challenges. I have learned more and have shared in more life enlightening experiences during that time than in any other time in my life. Chandler has taught me so much about what it is like to be different, and I am forever grateful for the lessons that he has brought to me.

During a weekend trip to Chicago a couple of years ago, the light "switched" for Spencer. Our third child, second boy, he was and outgoing talking machine. He was speaking in full, wonderful sentences, and would carry on conversations with me that were well beyond his age.

Over that three day stretch, I remember like it was yesterday telling my wife:

"Watch Spencer, it's happening again."

By the end of the weekend, he wasn't speaking in sentences anymore. He was making noises that were out of the ordinary, and we were about to find out that Autism has become a part of our lives twice in just a few years.

While all of this has been going on, and we have received wonderful treatment for our boys, the girls had never really shown any signs of being on the spectrum. When they would occasionally act out, or do something their brothers would do, we dismissed it as "learned" behavior, because either that made the most sense to me, or I just didn't want to see the obvious.

Over the last ten months, Alyssa (7), has started exhibiting signs of being on the spectrum. She can no longer go to games in the arena that I work in because the crowds are too loud. Things that never scared her before she is deathly afraid of. She is acting out in ways that she never did before, and recently sensory has become a big part of her life. We are going to be taking her to a doctor soon, but I think we all know what's coming.

My youngest daughter Kady is next. She just turned three and is now showing some of the same signs that her sister and older brothers have. Kadys' is not very pronounced - yet - but it's there, and having gone through this three times now, it's time for me to open my eyes and see what is happening in front of me. My fourth child, one that I never thought would be impacted by this other than what she sees with her brothers is probably on the spectrum.

Four for four.

I speak to support groups a number of times a year, with my specialty topic being "THE FIRST DAY," which I hope to write a book about soon, discusses what it is like to get the news that your child, who looks perfectly normal and yesterday may have acted as such, has just been diagnosed with something that will make him or her different. Something that will bring bullies to the table for the first time, something that may cause them to be called the "R" word.

I am often asked how I dealt with it. I didn't do well. I am a very emotional man, and when you are told that your son is going to be different from others, it is natural to be upset. I cried a lot. I didn't know what to do about it. All I knew is that I could not help him (immediately) and I didn't like not being in control.

Then we got the news again.

And now I wait again for what I know is coming. Two more first days.

If you are a Father and are coming to this blog for the first time because you just happened to google "Father Autism", your life has probably just changed forever.

I am hear to tell you that no matter the struggle, no matter the challenge and no matter the issues that you are about to be impacted by, your life changed for the better today.

Spend the time with your son or daughter and get to know the disorder. Begin to understand the specific parts of the disorder that impacts your family. Have your child teach you how to cope with the behavior issues that you are about to realize.

There are so many resources available in every market in the country.

What surprises me the most is the high level of divorce that is caused because our children are different. I can understand the stress it puts on a family, but my wife and I have used it as a unifying experience. We work together to ensure our children have the best opportunities in life. We make sure that the kids have everything they need, that they get to therapy, that we are both at school conferences and IEP meetings.

My wife is my hero because of her drive and determination to ensure that both Chandler and Spencer receive the services they deserve, and grow up to be respectable young men. Melinda's impact on our boys lives is evident because they are growing up to be such great boys. They are a direct reflection of their mother, and because of our working partnership, the boys have the best chance for success. She is my hero, and I know she is their hero.

If I am about to have two more first days (and I bet I am), I look forward to the challenge. I am excited to learn what is next for our family. Change is very difficult for these children, and we are moving again for my job - so the next few months are going to be difficult for the kids anyway.

I just hope that I am up to the task. I know my wife will be, and that support is enough to sustain me through this next chapter.

Cory Howerton
Father of Two Autistic Boys
Melinda's Husband

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